NO.6 PAOLO BUFFA: Up Our Street - 8 Holland Street's neighbours, near and far

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"AT LUNCH?...I always go to my mamma or nonna. It is mandatory! Every meal you miss out is a lost occasion to discover a new planet. Mamma is a pro on risotto and nonna on pasta, homemade of course. Sorry I was forgetting about my grandpa’s cellar, he always donates the right glass of something to top the experiencE..."

IN A FANTASY, WE HAVE BROUGHT PAOLO BUFFA BACK TO LIFE AND IMAGINED A VISIT TO HIS HOME AND STUDIO...

 

Italian designer Paolo Buffa is sitting quietly on a proto-type chair smoking a Gauloises by the window. He is looking out towards his hometown of Cantu, and although still, every now and then he feels the form of the chair he sits on. The chair is mahogany with an especially high-back that waves in horizontal lines, and all along it has patches of different stains; Paolo wants it to be rich and heavy to accentuate the delicate tapering of the legs. As ever, he wants to experience the chair before any further design decisions are made. The view he looks out towards is of a sea of Cypress trees that lead down to Lake Como, and it is the perfect tonic from the industry of the workshop; this is the contradiction of the place where Paolo resides, both peaceful Italian landscape and a vibrant centre for the furniture industry.

 

Paolo tells us, that his contemporaries joke that it is because Paolo’s hometown happens to be where most beautiful Italian furniture is made, that Signore Buffa can push the boundaries of his designs by using his local familiarity and charm. That being said, the texture of his hands that loop around his cigarette reveal a hard-working maker and designer that works with the craftsmen rather than dictating to them. This can be sensed, in the very loud but bright Italian conversation that sings in the background of the workshop. Although truly Italian in many ways, Paolo shows us various exotic materials he seeks out – from Brasilian rosewood to Cuban mahogany. As we walk around, Buffa is suave and statuesque and yet stresses humour is vital to his work and life. Buffa aptly translates to “funny” in English, and it seems he has taken this on board. He reminds us of a passage from Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘A Moveable Feast’ -

 

“They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.”

 

Both Paolo Buffa and his designs offer superior beauty with a sense of humour. He has been showcasing this at the Triennale di Milano for many years, from dining room sets to furniture. He is classed as an inventive designer, taking notes from Lombard classicism, Milanese architecture, Art Deco detailing, and opulent Neoclassicism. As with everything, he will have collected these from his experiences – his training at the Politecnico di Milano, work with Gio Ponti and partnership with architect Antonio Cassi Ramelli. He is a true example of well trained, artful Italian design but it is his distinct sense of humour that sets him apart.

 

Paolo Buffa designed in challenging times, through Mussolini’s dictatorship and world war, therefore his designs provided a tonic within the safe cocoon of home. Today, we face our own challenges, and Buffas pieces have the same effect. They are UP OUR STREET because they offer a wink of reassurance within an interior and a lightness we all need – As "Paolo" says “domani è un altro giorno si vedrà” (tomorrow is another day, we will see).

 

WRITTEN BY ALEX MASTERS

WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO RICCARDO RIZZETTO FOR BEING PAOLO.

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Thoughts

"Paolo Buffa" completes the sentences about his day...

 

I STARTED MY DAY BY ...

 

waking up, opening the window and admiring the light outside. Feeling so blessed to live in Italy. I wake-up ready to catch my next inspiration just right off the window. There is nothing like the ever-changing aspect of my garden and of the light in the facade of the building next to my house

 

AT LUNCH ...

 

I always go to my mamma or nonna. It is mandatory! Every meal you miss out is a lost occasion to discover a new planet. Mamma is a pro on risotto and nonna on pasta, homemade of course. Sorry I was forgetting about my grandpa’s cellar, he always donates the right glass of something to top the experience

 


What GETS ME THROUGH...

 

is the ambition that someday someone will feel better from living with my designs when having a bad day; turning around and getting their mood lifted and lightened. That is my way to contribute to others well-being. I believe good design can do that.

 

A DISTRACTION...

 

is something that makes me forget for a second about how short and fast life is. It is the Campari soda I get at the end of the day, with its red sparkling hue that goes so perfectly with olives and makes you feel that the day was worth passing by, and it is the reward to have gotten through.

I FAILED at...

 

keeping my opinion to myself. I feel so guilty if I don’t say what I need to say. Sometimes I don’t find the right way to, but at least I got rid of that secret thought that otherwise I would have kept just for me.

 

A THOUGHT I had…

 

say what you need to say, don’t worry how it is going to be transpose. Two are the options: in the best scenario, you gave someone a new support to his thesis, in the worst case I’ll be the springboard for an evolution of his thoughts. It is going to lead to a new stadium in any case.

 


A DREAM PROJECT...

 

Is for design to go back to its roots when it was conceived to solve problems and empower and improve everyday life. It could have been through functionality or through aesthetic, but the aim was the same. In any case it was a way to connect to others like all the makers, apart from the clients of course.

 


TOMORROW...

 

“domani è un altro giorno si vedrà” (tomorrow is another day, we will see) (song of Ornella Vanoni. Title: domani è un altro giorno). Every tomorrow is a surprise. You can’t know what is going to happen and it often ends up being over expectations. That is the beauty of the time passing by.

 

Sources for this feature:

Mitchell Owens, “Paolo Buffa’s Midcentury Furniture Designs.” Architectural Digest, 1 June 2013.

"Paolo Buffa Designer 1939-1968" Book

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